Friday, April 23, 2010


My Dad, who is 92 this year, takes a while to get to the phone these days. He still beat me to it the other day. He listened to the caller, explained he 'wasn't interested' and put the phone down.
I was intrigued. Who was that, I asked.

'Somebody selling burglar alarms. Apparently break ins have risen in this area'
I 1471ed, got a Salford number, and called them back. My dad's number is part of the Telephone Preference Service database and so should not be rung by salespeople. I encountered a girl called Lucy.
'What's the name of your company?' I asked.
'Erm, I can't remember.'
I think I may have expressed disbelief at this point.

'What's your full name?' I inquired.
'I'll get the manager'

After an interval the 'manager' came on the line. I pointed out the TPS problem.
'We'll delete your number' he promised.
'What's the name of your company?' I asked
'Crime Prevention UK' he said.
'Where are you based?' I asked
'We don't disclose that' he said.

There is no mention of any firm 'Crime Prevention UK' anywhere on the web.

My Dad now gets an average of three of these kind of calls a week. He is obviously on a list of old people who could be targetted profitably by scamsters. What is the point of the TPS if it does not protect the elderly from these calls? The TPS complaint form, since I obtained one and filled it out, says it will relay the complaint - with all your personal details - to the company you're complaining about. Not reassuring.

There is a dark underbelly of business in this country populated with salespeople making a desperate living preying on the vulnerable either door to door or by phone calls from shabby call centres in low rent business parks. I caught a glimpse of it in this incident and it wasn't edifying.

Friday, April 09, 2010


My aunty Hilda was a landgirl. I thought of her this week as Ms T and I finally got around to the Ministry of Food Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum. It's a great display with handily presented films, a wartime greenhouse complete with a simulated cup of tea and many recollections - written and also available for you to listen to - of the people who Hitler came close to starving.

Some of the food the British were eating in the 1940's looks pretty grim. Not nutritionally deficient necessarily, but definitely fairly sparse, and dull with an acccent on our less interesting veg. The gravy was dubious. The rich eat out, because there was no rationing in restaurants. The rest of us struggled with a shortage of onions and not much fruit. It was roughest on the children. Imagine growing up without ice cream! There's a brilliant picture of two perplexed kids looking at carrots on sticks.

Everyone knows about rationing but I didn't realise it only finished in 1957. Infact it got tighter after the fighting ended, with bread and potatoes being rationed in 1946 and 1947. At one point the rationing of sweets ended, then had to be reintroduced after there was a rush. Scandalous. The exhibition finishes next Feb.

UPDATE My friend Jo-Anne says her parents' experience was that rationing was largely an urban phenomenon. Her mum in London kept chickens in the back garden and experienced rationing in the raw. Whereas her dad, who moved between Liverpool and North Wales, had access to many market gardens and so experienced no real shortages. Her grandad also kept a pig in a factory yard.